Half-time: Aston Villa 0-0 Arsenal
It’s been a session of attack versus defence and it’s the Villa defence that is winning out, with Arsenal reduced to half chances. Arsenal need to find much more and hope Villa run out of energy and concentration.
45 min: Mead has a shot blocked just as Miedema plays her into position on the edge of the penalty area. Then Roord fails to control a pass as it’s played through.
44 min: Another glimpse of Iwabuchim but deep in her own half. That skill would come in handier up the other end.
43 min: Yet another Arsenal corner, though this time from the right-hand side rather than left. Weiss has to climb to claw away the ball. She’s had a good game so far, looked very solid.
42 min: Better from Arsenal. Villa are perhaps a tad tired from their efforts in the first 40 minutes. They have been camped in their own half all game.
40 min: Another corner, and Miedema’s header is beaten away. Mounting pressure, and Miedema the ball taken off her toes just as she shaped to shoot.
38 min: Villa lose the ball in midfield, and then Weiss makes a fine save from a Nobbs shot. That’s the best football of the same so far.
36 min: Weiss again collects the ball with ease when Nobbs has a shot blocked. Not much attacking quality from Arsenal here.
34 min: All Arsenal still and yet Villa still sitting pretty. The ball comes across to Jill Roord, whose shot is saved easily by Weiss.
32 min: Arsenal free-kick, from 20-25 yards out, Mead takes it, beats the wall but her cross goes miles over the crossbar.
30 min: Miedema kept very quiet by Villa. Larsen at the other end has been more involved and briefly has a glimpse of goal. She ends up running into heavy traffic.
28 min: Another Arsenal corner, another clearance by Villa. That’s the pattern of the game so far.
26 min: Foul on Iwabuchim, who gets her second touch of the game but can’t stay on her feet.
25 min: Lydia Williams in Arsenal’s goal could have brought her sudoku book for all the work she has had to get through. Not that Weiss in the Villa goal has had much to do either.
23 min: This is no classic, it has to be said. It is full of indications why Arsenal are yet to win a game in 2021. No spark, not much else, either.
21 min: More Arsenal pressure, and another corner. Taken short again, and cleared again. Trying to be too clever by half? There’s a lot of that about.
19 min: A brief glimpse of Iwabuchim in midfield for Aston Villa. The game has passed her by until now.
17 min: Aston Villa, while offering very little in attack, don’t actually look in much danger. Haigh, in their defence, does well to turn and spin off Mauritz in the penalty area.
15 min: Arsenal attempt a quick corner, nice idea but Roord lofts the ball over the bar.
14 min: Van de Donk is stopped in her tracks as Arsenal attempt an overload down the right-hand side.
12 min: Nobbs lobs the ball up and Villa eventually clear up the danger when McCabe’s shot is blocked. All Arsenal but none too convincingly.
11 min: Mead gets a chance to shoot, but fires wide of the target.
10 min: Mead spreads the ball, Maritz crosses and Villa’s numbers again snuff out the danger. Villa mount an attack, and when they lose the ball Marcus Bignot implores his players to “keep ‘em in”.
8 min: Arsenal seem to be lacking fluency once more. They have plenty of the ball but are doing little with it. Villa don’t look too discomfited by their attacks as yet.
6 min: Arsenal corner, taken short. Eventually, Aston Villa get the ball clear after a couple of attempts to cross the ball at Miedema.
5 min: Joe Montemurro is highly vocal, as is Marcus Bignot, the Villa coach. “Press it!”
3 min: Arsenal look the more comfortable in possession as might be expected. Villa sat back deep in numbers.
2 min: Lisa Weiss for Villa gets an early touch on the ball. Larsen, at the other end, has a shot blocked. That was a speedy counter.
1 min: And away we go, with Jordan Nobbs leading Arsenal in the spring sun.
Those teams again.
Aston Villa: Weiss, Ale, N’Dow, Asante, Haigh, Hutton, Ewers (C), Hanssen, Arthur, Iwabuchim, Larsen. Subs: Rogers, Follis, West, Siems, Syme, Gregory, Hayles.
Arsenal: Williams, Maritz, Williamson, Beattie, McCabe, Walti, Roord, Van de Donk, Nobbs, Miedema, Mead. Subs: Stenson, Zinsberger, Maier, Evans, Patten Wubben-Moy, Gut, Foord.
The players are on the pitch at the Bescot, and the game will go ahead at the fourth time of asking.
Some quotes, courtesy of the excellent Tim Stillman of Arseblog, from the Arsenal coach Joe Montemurro.
(This international round) was really important for the players, just so they don’t have to look at my ugly face day in and day out if nothing else! I’ve always been a big supporter of players going away with their countries, it’s an honour and whatever they can get from that perspective is really important for them. We support that. It’s been an interesting one because some teams have just gone into camp to get their players together. All the testing that is required to get players back into our group has been a bit challenging. It has been a good round in terms of getting our players more game time and getting them into a different environment with their international colleagues- that’s been really important from the mental health perspective and the football perspective but it has also been challenging in terms of the protocols.
Arsenal’s last WSL game didn’t go well when they were picked apart by the expertise of Chelsea, and their hopes of cracking the top three and returning to the Champions League took a serious jolt. Joe Montemurro and his players have had time to regroup and travel to the Midlands, where Villa are perhaps flirting with relegation at the bottom of the league. Their last outing, a 1-0 defeat of Tottenham courtesy of a wonder strike by Mana Iwabuchi allayed fears somewhat, and they will probably present a difficult proposition for an Arsenal team struggling for the flow of previous seasons. For Arsenal, Jordan Nobbs and Jen Beattie are both back and Caitlin Foord will face a late fitness test. At Villa, there’s been a recent coaching reshuffle with manager Jemma Davies stepping down to work under Marcus Bignot. This game has been postponed three times this season already, but with the weather hale and hearty and Covid not quite as rife as it previously was, then it’s fourth time lucky.